The Angry Theatre: New British Drama

The Angry Theatre: New British Drama

The Angry Theatre: New British Drama

The Angry Theatre: New British Drama

Excerpt

'The novel . . . in England at least has been the natural prose form for a creative mind to adopt since the time of Richardson.'

So, at any rate, said Robert Liddell in his Treatise on the Novel, first published in 1947, and then probably no one would have disagreed with him. But now one would have to add a vital coda: until John Osborne. The whole picture of writing in this country has undergone a transformation in the last five years or so, and the event which marks 'then' off decisively from 'now' is the first performance of Look Back in Anger on 8 May 1956. Not that this event was startlingly novel in itself. John Osborne was 26 at the time, which is young but not extraordinarily so; Noel Coward made a similar impact at an even earlier age with The Vortex. What is important about it is the success the play enjoyed and the consequences this had for a whole generation of writers; writers who fifty, fifteen or even five years before would probably have adopted the novel as their chosen form but now, all of a sudden, were moved to try their hand at drama and, even more surprisingly, found companies to stage their works and audiences to appreciate them.

For Look Back in Anger had a succès d'estime, a succès de scandale, and finally just a succès. It was constantly revived at the Royal Court, went on tour, was staged all over the world, made into a film, and in the end even turned up in a novelized version as the book of the film of the play. It was not just another play by another young writer, staged in a fit of enterprise by a provincial rep and then forgotten; it was something much more, something suspiciously like big business, and for the first time the idea got around that there might be money in young dramatists and young drama. Rather in the same way that French film producers began to feel differently about young directors after Et Dieu Créa la Femme, theatres began to feel differently about young writers, and with a new willingness to consider staging new plays by new and unknown writers came, not surprisingly, the new and unknown writers to supply the plays.

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